Italian veteran the epitome of measured midfield invention.
England may well have ultimately succumbed to Italy in their time honoured fashion, via penalty-shoot heartache, but Roy Hodgson’s side were by far the inferior of the two sides on display in Kiev.
Andrea Pirlo ruled the roost. The veteran midfielder ran the show for 120 minutes, showing great stamina for a man of his years. Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker failed to rein in the Juventus schemer and but for some errant finishing and heroic defending from Messrs Terry & Lescott, Italy would have run out winners by a country mile long before the dreaded spot-kicks honed into view.
Having ‘turned back the years’ with sublime consistent displays in the heart of Juventus’s midfield to bring a Serie A title back to Turin Pirlo seemed destined to put his stamp on Euro 2012. Commentators had seemingly run out of superlatives following a series of near flawless displays during a group stage that also included a goal scored with a precision free-kick against Croatia.
Perhaps the ageing midfielder would find the going tough, this being his fourth game in 15 days following a club season that had seen Pirlo play all but one of Juventus’s Serie A fixtures. No doubt that was a hope that Roy Hodgson shared, but it was not to be.
However rather than lose momentum, even during the lottery that is a penalty shoot-out, Pirlo rose head and shoulders above all around him. When all around you are losing their heads, or narrowly beating the keepers placed before them, the Italian international showed his class once more.
With pressure on his shoulders following Riccardo Montolivo’s missed spot-kick and with England holding the upper hand, Pirlo stepped up to take his penalty. Joe Hart attempted to ‘get in his head’ with some schoolboy antics but he himself was given a lesson in coolness.
Not for him the blasted spot-kick nor the well executed finish into the corners. The 33 year old with the well worn features opted to hit a Panenka. The cheekiest of all penalty kick varieties. Pirlo hit this too with the accuracy and finesse of a man in the form of his life.
Dinking the penalty straight down the middle as Joe Hart flailed in the wrong direction.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Pirlo is the metronome from which all midfielders should have their watches set to.